This is a brief story about my journey from a life of crime, living a dark world to Islam. I have kept out many details to protect my identity, so this will be a short summary of what I went through. The aim of this article is to hopefully help someone who is in my former position find their way out of it.
I was born into a Muslim family but was never practicing. I had on & off pondered on the meaning of life. You could say I leant to a somewhat agnostic position. Growing up, in attempt to find my identity I tended to get drawn in with ‘the wrong crowd’. I went to school with predominantly white children and had very little to none Islamic influence in my life.
My role models, although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, were YouTube rappers who’s occupation were drug dealers or robbers. I was in awe of their money, cars & women. The life looked so glamorous. I’d watch classic movies like Scarface and be impressed by the drug dealing, shooting and organised criminal empire.
Growing up, my parents were mostly in financial difficulty. Of course, there are people who were worse off than I was, but I didn’t have the same things my peers had. My parents couldn’t afford it.
As I got older and was completely financially responsible for myself, I fell on hard times. I had maxed out overdrafts, credit cards and was in a viscous cycle of payday loans.
My efforts to find a job did not go very well. I managed to get two interviews but ultimately was not successful. It was at this moment I felt I had no other choice other than to start selling drugs. I am not saying it was the right or acceptable thing to do – but this did come out of desperation. I was aware what I was doing was wrong.
In my first two years, I had some very close calls in terms of violent encounters. The lifestyle brings danger from those who you are rivals with and you become a target for robbers. Some how, I always got away untouched and never lost anything. I would sleep anxiously, worrying about the police knocking my door down at 6 in the morning or the next knock on my door being some local gangsters coming to take everything I own. I quickly learned the glamorous lifestyle, the dream I was sold was a lie. For the first time in my life, I started experiencing full blown panic attacks. I developed a mild alcohol and cannabis addiction. This was not enough to stop me doing what I was doing though. This was about making sure I had the money to eat.
This lifestyle had a major part to play in ruining my education. Instead of focusing on my studies, I was focusing on how to make more money, pay off my debts as well as have the basics – food, shelter & clothes. I failed my course and wasted two years of my life at this stage.
The following year, things had changed. I’d paid my debts off, got a car, designer clothes and many of the things I desired. I still chose to continue with this lifestyle. I got into things I’m ashamed to write. But things were about to take a turn for the worst. Looking back now, it had somewhat turned from desperation, to greed, but also this lifestyle had become a major part of my identity.
Finally, as I had anticipated the inevitable came, I got robbed and violently assaulted. It left my teeth displaced. Shortly after, I was even robbed at gun point. These incidents still haunt me to this very day. At this time, I was still not practicing Islam, but I’d sometimes say in the threat of danger if anything happens to me, then God wills it. On both days I said that – these incidents occurred. It led me to further ponder on the existence of God & our life’s purpose.
One night, in my own way, I asked for Gods help. Oddly enough, the same night I was encouraged & invited by complete strangers to pray Salah with them. Unfortunately, I did not. I don’t believe this was mere coincidence. It very much seemed as if a higher power was showing me the right path.
Whether it was coincidence or not, I spent a lot of time reading about Islam, watching speakers corner debates and so on. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Islam is the truth, the right way to go and our purpose of life is to worship our creator. The challenges I faced in this regard will be the subject of a future article.
A few years on, here I am. I am not exactly where I need to be but that lifestyle is far behind me. I earn a halal income and I’m far more content with my life, rather than continuing buying into a false dream as I previously was. There is a certain verse in Surah Al-Baqarah which sums up everything:
“Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [2:268]
My experiences provided me with so many life lessons. Some of which I can directly relate to Islam, for example, avoiding alcohol and interest loans. I’ve learned that money, clothes and cars don’t bring contentment. You will always want more. I’ve lost friends, hurt myself, hurt people I care about, destroyed my opportunities and achieved nothing. If you are involved in this kind of lifestyle, I’d advise you to drop it before you reach a point of no return. Anyone who is involved in this scene & is honest about it knows there is nothing cool or glamorous about it. The consequences can be far reaching and devastating in this life and the next. Don’t learn the hard way. If I didn’t learn then, I imagine I’d be in a worse place now.
by Abu Rahman